Cartago

The Ultimate Guide to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Abi Dardas is a student at Loyola University Chicago and an ISA Featured Photo Blogger. She participated on an ISA Service-Learning program abroad with ISA in Cartago, Costa Rica.

Deciding where to go while abroad can seem so daunting. Before you leave, it seems like you’ll have endless time to go and do. While you will get to know the country you’re visiting, time goes by so much faster than anticipated once you’re actually abroad. To make the most of my time abroad, I like to research the area and talk to my local friends about any recommendations they have, either generally or for a specific location.

This past weekend, I traveled to the Caribbean Sea in Puerto Viejo with my host family. From San José, it’s about a five hour trip by bus. The bus runs four times per day directly from San José to Puerto Viejo and only costs about $8 USD. Being a destination popular for many tourists, there are a variety of options for places to sleep, from hostels to high end hotels. There are so many activities to choose from as well. That being said, I couldn’t fit everything into my weekend trip, but it was definitely a good time!

Rent a Bike

Rental bikes resting on a tree while my friends and I stopped to rest, dry off a bit from the rain, and take some pictures.

Renting bikes, pedal or motorized, is a very popular way to get around and to see the vast variety of beaches the area has to offer. Not only that, but it’s also cheaper than buses or taxis, and faster than walking. For a bike from 9 am to 6 pm, I only had to pay USD $5. I biked over 24 km to the next town & back, and around Puerto Viejo. Make sure if you go during rainy season you have a trusty poncho, as you may catch yourself in a downpour for 45 minutes. Lesson learned!

Go for a Swim in the Caribbean Ocean

With it being so easy to get around, it is fun to explore Puerto Viejo’s various beaches. There’s a ton of variety, with some being more crowded while others are more secluded.

Try Caribbean Rice and Beans

This is a traditional Caribbean dish prepared with rice, beans, coconut milk, and typically some sort of meat. Note that this should not be confused with Tico Gallo Pinto, which is also rice and beans but prepared differently. My friends and I stopped at Joe Snackpoint, an affordable and delicious option on the main road, and we all tried Rice and Beans with Chicken and Tamarind juice. ¡Qué rico!

Watch the Sunset

Natural beauty is a great way to end any day and start any night.

Buy Something Sweet

There are so many different options to choose from panaderías to heladerías to cafés. If you’re feeling adventurous, Pan Bon is a sweet molasses bread that is a specialty to the area. Sweets somehow always taste better on the beach while watching the sunset.

Hike in National Park Cahuita

Parts of the trail were completely surrounded by trees, like the picture above, while others were more open.

Parts of the trail were completely surrounded by trees, like the picture above, while others were more open.

A colorful crab, one of the many creatures spotted while hiking. Also seen were monkeys, geckos, lizards, a snake, a crocodile, and a sloth.

A colorful crab, one of the many creatures spotted while hiking. Also seen were monkeys, geckos, lizards, a snake, a crocodile, and a sloth.

Though not technically in Puerto Viejo, this national park is a short bus ride away. It consists of an 8.3 km trail with five or so different sections that are connected, but each completely different. I would definitely recommend walking the whole thing, but a walker can turn around at any time. Aside from the sweltering heat, it’s an easy hike and a great way to see different Costa Rican atmospheres and creatures.

One of the more tropical feeling spots along the trail.

One of the more tropical feeling spots along the trail.

The world awaits…discover it.

 

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